By: Philomena Barry
Englishwoman Kara Richards has been making music for almost her entire life!
Her first big break came when she was just ten years old, when her class teacher, an Irish lady, helped her and two classmates form a Peter, Paul and Mary style trio called the New Forest Rovers, which quickly became the star act of the schoolâ€™s Friday afternoon performance assembly!
When she finished school she became a regular busker, and in 1983 she hitchhiked to the Stonehenge Free Festival; she had a tent, a sleeping bag, home-made dungarees, and a 12 string Eko, and was welcomed by a big banner proclaiming â€œWe are the people our parents warned us aboutâ€!
The Convoy that Kara was part of was finally brought down at Stoney Cross in 1986 when Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister, sent the â€œheaviesâ€ in, threatening to take the groupâ€™s children and put them into care. Kara says that â€œall our men took their drugs and money and scuttled off into the hedgerows, leaving the women and children to face the police, who simply took all the vehicles that did not have a full set of legal paperwork (all but one), and gave the owners a choice of walking away with what they could carry, or a free breakfast and a police cell. The fantastic Mr Eavis of Glastonbury Festival gave us asylum, and while I gave considerable thought to the â€˜New Ageâ€™, I wrote a couple of songs including Pandora’s Box, which got played in several TV documentaries about our lifestyle.â€ The women, seven or eight altogether, shared a living space and quickly realised that they could on just as well without the men folk, perhaps even better!
Not long after this, Kara and her baby daughter got a lift to Ireland. She played at busking festivals for a time, before hopping on a boat to France!
From there she travelled with a group of friends to Amsterdam and eventually they travelled all around Europe, driving past the newly dismantled Berlin Wall, and making their way through Yugoslavia with the war on either side and the value of the dinar losing decimal points from one motorway toll booth to the next!
Kara spent the next 15 years in France, with just a brief return to the UK in 1996, where she recorded the album Shame and Ruin.
Her next stop was Andalucia, where she met Jimmy Bergin. A few years later they founded record company Rrrip Records and in 2010 they released â€œTill Now,â€ a compilation of the work they had done up until then. This was followed three years later by â€œA Short Study on the Nature of Love and Drink.â€
Today, Kara can be found in Athlone, and if youâ€™re out in the evening you might see her performing in one of the local pubs with her current band, Kara and the Klass! Youâ€™ll also hear her right here on Athlone Community Radio; Kara presents LiveWires every Tuesday evening at 7pm, where she welcomes local musicians into the studio for a chat and some live music!
I interviewed Kara on For Arts Sake last month; click on the link below to have a listen!